Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Choose Your Own Adventure Stories

The Choose Your Own Adventure series was a staple of my young reading life. I read the first ones from the local library and went on to collect numerous more of my own. They were terrific stories--bringing the reader into the story even more directly than the usual experience because the reader becomes the protagonist and is regularly presented with choices to determine their next action and the plot's outcome. The stories covered every sort of adventure from mysteries to science fiction tales to journeys under the sea and through the air by hot air balloon. When I was trying to find likely books to interest my son, I loaned out my collection and bought more. I'm not sure that he was ever as fascinated with them as I had been, but they did help my reluctant reader.

I recently decided to go back and read one that I had collected, but never got around to. Prisoner of the Ant People (#25) by R. A. Montgomery ventures into the science fiction genre. You, the protagonist, are described as a genius who has been brought into the Zondo Quest Group II. The Zondo group are working on a way to defeat the Evil Power Master who is destroying planets one by one. Your computer skills are vital to the group's research. When members of the research team begin disappearing, you and two other members (a robot and a Martian) set out to discover what has happened to them and rescue them if you can. It involves the use of a miniaturization ray and encounters with Ant People.  

Okay...so this isn't one of Montgomery's all-time best story lines. After emphasizing what a genius the reader is with computers...computer skills have pretty much zero to do with any of the possible story lines. And the tie-in between the Evil Power Master, the disappearing team members, and the Ant People is flimsy at best when the connection is made at all. Some of the story lines seem to forget that the main point was the Evil Power Master at all. The stories I remember reading, while perhaps not having indepth plots did at least have consistent ones and all of the story lines were tied to the central story. ★★ for a fair outing. The choices are interesting and there are a good number of possible endings even if they don't all tie directly to the Evil Power Master theme.

Having been a bit disappointed with the Ant People. I decide to go back to the book that first introduced me to the series and which was always my favorite: The Mystery of Chimney Rock (#5) by Edward Packard. I wanted to see if it still held up nearly 40 years later (has it really been that long?!). I checked this out of the library and fell in love with the idea of choosing my own fate in the stories I was reading. I wound up buying a copy of my very own just to have ('cause that's what I do with books I love) and foisted it upon my son in the hopes that he'd fall in love with them too. So, what's the verdict?

Chimney Rock finds you visiting your cousins, Jane and Michael, in Connecticut. Nearby is a huge stone house with turrets, walled terraces, and a square tower that looks like a chimney. Windows are boarded up and vines and bushes are growing all over. Your cousins tell you that Chimney Rock (for that's the name of the house) is rumored to be cursed and that people who have gone in have never come out. When you scoff at the idea that Mrs. Bigley, the last owner, died and put a spell of some sort on the house so her cat could live there without anyone bothering it, your cousins dare you to go in the house. Your first decision--do you take the dare or not? Depending on your choices you might fall under the curse, lift the curse, become the heir to a fortune, lose a cousin or two along the way, or never be seen again. 

Packard maintains his primary story while offering the reader multiple endings--both good and bad. There is a grand feeling of suspense and mystery and, despite being several years older, I found myself wrapped up in the mystery just as much as when I was young. I definitely would recommend this series to young readers looking for a bit of adventure--particularly the earlier offerings. ★★★★ when I was young and ★★★★ now.


3 comments:

theinvisibleevent said...

I imagine the plotting of these must have been a lot of fun, and part of me wonders now if there's a way to reproduce this format for a detective plot -- the interpretation you give to one clue takes you in one direction, and and alternative reading takes you in another. Hmmm, might just copyright that idea and get to work on it...!

Bev Hankins said...

JJ: I think that would be an outstanding idea. Imagine if we got our Tuesday Night Bloggers and/or Verdict of You All folks together and put these together.

fredamans said...

I never could really get into choose your own adventures. I like it chosen for me, I suppose.